When it comes to planning your visit to Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s important to understand the unique nature of the park. As a Colorado resident of over 12 years, I know a thing or two about the best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.
As one of the best national parks in the USA, Rocky gets crowded, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find sweet solitude in the high alpine.
This post takes an in-depth look at when to visit Rocky Mountain National Park and what it’s like throughout the year. There are even a few handy resources for planning your visit to Rocky.
Timed Entry Requirements for Rocky Mountain National Park in 2021
In 2021 Rocky Mountain National Park is continuing their required reservation system. From May 28th to October 28th you’ll need to purchase an advanced reservation to access Rocky Mountain NP.
Permits cost the same as the entry fee and annual pass holders should check specific details.
There are two separate permits. One for the Bear Lake Road corridor which must be purchased if you’re entering that area of the park between 5 am and 6 pm. You can continue to enjoy the rest of the park at that time.
A second permit is available if you are NOT visiting the Bear Lake Road Corridor from 9 am to 3 pm. This permit allows you to enter the park, but not visit the Bear Lake Corridor unless you take the free shuttle.
Bear Lake Road Corridor includes the following trailheads:
- Bear Lake
- Sprague Lake
- Glacier Gorge
- Bierstadt Lake
- Hollowell Park
- and any other trailhead accessed from Bear Lake Road
Permits are released on the first of the month for the following month. Meaning you can obtain timed entry permits for July on June 1. Plan accordingly and remember, permits fill up fast!
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When is the Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park?
In short, the best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is between mid-June through mid-October. The weather is the warmest, the snow has melted, and the scenic Trail Ridge Road is typically open. However, this most crowded time to visit.
Winter is another beautiful time to visit Rocky if you’re looking to beat the crowds. However, do make sure you understand avalanche safety if you plan on venturing far from the road.
You can visit Rocky Mountain National Park any time of year, the park is always open, but you should understand the weather, snow hazards, and difficulties of navigating the park.
Here’s a look at the different seasons for Rocky Mountain National Park and what to expect.
Visiting Rock Mountain National Park in December through April
Here’s what to know if you want to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in winter:
- Very snowy with heavy avalanche risks.
- Trail Ridge Road is typically closed.
- People still visit the park, but this is the least crowded season. Although there is plenty of things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter.
The days are short, the winds are brisk (and frequent), and the average highs are in the upper 30s and the lows are in the teens. Snow is common and usually dumps in large storms – March is the snowiest month. Avalanche hazards are severe.
Rocky Mountain National Park in May through mid-June.
Late spring and early summer are great times to visit the park. Here’s what to expect.
- Still plenty of snow on the higher elevation trails.
- Trail Ridge Road might be open depending on the snow year.
- Hiking is possible although snowshoes and microspikes still may be required.
- It is prime time for skiing big peaks and snow climbing.
- The park is relatively crowded.
Springtime weather is typically unpredictable. However, expect wet, heavy snowstorms as well as warm sunny days. Temperatures are in the mid-40s to mid-50s during the day and in the mid-30s to mid-40s at night.
Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in June Through Late July
The high season for Rocky Mountain National Park is mid to late summer and here’s why.
- Snow has melted and trails are clear.
- Trail Ridge Road is open.
- Wildflowers are in bloom and the scenery is beautiful.
- The peak of hiking and rock climbing season.
- Expect afternoon thunderstorms.
- The park is extremely crowded.
Summertime is typically sunny in the mornings with brief, yet violent thunderstorms plaguing the afternoon. These storms only last around an hour, but if you’re caught above the trees they are a real safety hazard. People die in the park every year from lightning strikes. Highs are in the mid-70s and lows are in the 40s.
Conditions in the Park from August through Mid-October
Late summer and early fall are still excellent times to visit the park. Be aware that during the fall colors in Colorado, the park is absolutely stuffed with people.
- The wildflowers are finished blooming. It is green until September.
- The fall colors are at their peak around the third week of September.
- The Elk rut runs from mid-August until mid-september and offers amazing wildlife viewing opportunities.
- The park is absolutely stuffed with crowds during fall colors.
- The fall is a windy season.
- The park is very crowded.
Fall is another unpredictable time. Fall in Colorado is typically windy with cooler temps ranging from the 60s to the 40s with lows well below freezing. The first snow is typically in October.
Mid-October Through December in Rocky
Early winter is typically cold with a very brown landscape. You may be treated to dustings of snow, which can be stunning. However, the park begins to partially close for winter.
- Expect unpredictable conditions.
- It is typically very windy.
- Snow is starting to accumulate, making the trails icy, especially at higher elevations.
- Trail Ridge Road is likely closed.
- Crowds are at their lowest.
Temperatures are cold and the conditions are windy. The snow arrives in October and it typically stays icy and snowy. Expect daytime temperatures to hover just above freezing and nighttime temps in the teens.